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Sophia Burset

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Sophia Burset is a trans woman who is incarcerated at Litchfield Penitentiary. She previously worked as one of the prison's hairstylists, until she was sent to the SHU and Maria Ruiz's group took over her salon as a place to deal drugs. She is portrayed by actress Laverne Cox.

She is based on Vanessa Robinson from Piper Kerman's memoir, Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison.


Sophia is a friendly person in general, and enjoys doing her makeup and fixing inmates' hair. She stands by her beliefs and is stubborn to get what she wants.

She is seen to be very saddened when she starts to suffer transphobic abuse, as she thought she was "one of the girls" and is shocked at how quickly that can change.

She befriended Sister Ingalls initially to try and get some of her HRT when her hormone medication was reduced. However, the two developed a closer friendship after Ingalls told Sophia she knew her game and wouldn't be giving her any of her meds.

Physical Appearance

Sophia is 6'0" tall and wears a light chestnut wig. She is always done up nicely and wears lipstick.


Before Litchfield

For a list of episodes featuring Sophia's flashbacks, see here.
M. lamar

M. Lamar as Sophia pre-transition (Marcus) in "Lesbian Request Denied".

Before transitioning, Sophia was a firefighter named Marcus and was married to Crystal, with whom she had a son, Michael. To pay for her sex-reassignment operations, she stole credit cards, boosting them to finance her surgeries. Throughout the entire process, her unknowing wife stuck by her, but Michael had difficulty accepting that his biological father was transgender and decided to get back at her by informing the police of her crime.

Season One

Sophia is first seen in "I Wasn't Ready", where she compliments Piper's hair and tells her to come by Sophia's salon when she needs her roots doing. In "Tit Punch", Piper manages to trade some of Sophia's shea butter for a lock of her own hair, which Sophia weaves into Taystee's hair. The shea butter is one of the ingredients that Piper uses to create a painkilling balm for Red's back, thus ending her starvation punishment for insulting Red's food.


Sophia has to contend with being the only trans woman in the prison and bearing the brunt of all the transphobia directed at her by both inmates and staff.

Sophia appears to have an ongoing rivalry with Danita, who also runs a hair salon at Litchfield, but has only been mentioned so far.

It's revealed that she had been in Litchfield for two years prior to Season Two. As of "Fucksgiving", she has three years and eight months of her sentence left.

Season Two

Sophia applied for furlough when her father had a lung transplant that didn't take. Sophia had a very distant relationship with her father after her transition, but when he started dying, he began to accept her and even called her his daughter ("Appropriately Sized Pots").

Season Three

Throughout much of the season Sophia and Gloria feel and share the helplessness that comes with being a mother behind bars, and Gloria asks Sophia if Crystal can give her son, Benny, rides up to the prison with her Michael. Shortly after, Michael starts swearing, acting belligerently and getting into fights, which causes Sophia to blame his actions on Benny being a bad influence. Angered, Sophia retracts the offer to give Benny rides to the prison. It's later revealed that the bad behavior was Michael's doing, not Benny's, which just causes tempers to flare even more between Sophia and Gloria. A verbal altercation in the bathroom culminates with Sophia shoving Gloria into a wall, which gives her a black eye. Sophia appears to be genuinely sorry, but does not apologise to Gloria either for the shove or for the fact that she was wrong about the situation between Michael and Benny. Their fight leads to Aleida spreading transphobic rumors about Sophia, causing Sophia's salon to be boycotted and leading to her being harassed and attacked by a number of inmates. Gloria is seen to be remorseful about the situation and is angry at Aleida's actions.

IMG 8278

Sophia, seen in the SHU at the end of "Don't Make Me Come Back There".

Due to the situation, Sophia threatens to sue Litchfield for low security and control. This blows up in her face, however, when she is sent to the SHU for "her own protection". This is ordered by MCC, not Caputo, who sees the unfairness of the situation and tries his best to get Sophia out of the SHU, but is unsuccessful.

At the end of Season Three, Sophia is still in the SHU being treated exactly like the other inmates, despite the fact that she is ostensibly there for "protection".


Caputo looking at Sophia in the SHU as seen in the Season Four trailer.

Season Four

Sophia is seen still in the SHU, having had her wig taken from her.

Crystal finds out that Sophia is in the SHU indefinitely after Mendoza asks her son to go over to Crystal Burset's house and tell Michael to relay the situation to his mother. Crystal heads over to Litchfield to try and get Sophia out by talking to Caputo but is not successful.

After Caputo ignores Sophia's requests to review the decision of her being in SHU, Sophia stages a protest by stuffing her clothing down the toilet to clog it up and flood out her cell. When this doesn't work, she breaks the lightbulb, holds up a toilet roll to ignite it from the electrical current, and uses it to light her cell on fire, resulting in all the inmates getting evacuated from SHU temporarily ("Doctor Psycho").

04x04, sophia

Sophia being escorted out of her SHU cell after she set her bed on fire. (Doctor Psycho)

Nichols, who is on cleaning duty in Max and the SHU, recognizes Sophia's voice while cleaning the hallways and opens up the face latch to say hello. She passes on a magazine to Sophia to keep her entertained.

The next day, while cleaning, a guard tells Nichols to clean the cell that Sophia was in. When she gets to the cell, it is empty and there is copious amounts of blood all over the cell walls and floor, looking like suicide.

04x10, sophia

Caputo takes a photo of Sophia in the SHU as evidence of her unlawful confinement in the SHU. (Bunny, Skull, Bunny, Skull)

In "Bunny, Skull, Bunny, Skull" Sister Ingalls, who has deliberately caused herself to be locked up in SHU to try and contact Sophia, realizes that Sophia is in a cell on the opposite end. She sends a folded letter of support to Sophia by sliding a note across the floor from door to door, in a zig-zag pattern, until it reaches cell B12. Sophia picks up the note with heavily bandaged wrists and almost healed wounds on her face and smiles when reading the note.

04x12, sophia

Sophia looks at her old salon, taken over by Ruiz and her crew. (The Animals)

In "The Animals", Sophia returns from the SHU. As she walks through the prison, she passes her old salon and sees that Ruiz's crew has taken over for their drug distribution business. There is transphobic abuse scrawled on the salon's sign.

04x12, sophia's hair

Gloria puts on Sophia's wig for her. (The Animals)

Later on Sophia returns to obtain a brush, but only continues to look inside the salon in silence. Gloria Mendoza walks into the salon and orders Ruiz's gang out. Sophia enters and sits in a chair. She gives Gloria her wig, which Gloria takes, brushes, and puts it back on Sophia's head.

Season Five






Memorable Quotes

"You have some fucked up priorities."
— Sophia Burset
"I can take good care of you... but even if you don't go to me, don't go to Danita! She will burn the shit out of your scalp."
— Sophia Burset
"Human beings aren't supposed to live like this."
— Sophia Burset
"Holy shit. I look hot."
— Sophia Burset
"I don't do sausage on my breakfast sandwich."
— Sophia Burset
"I knew them bitches was lying when they said you left here looking like Omar from The Wire."
— Sophia Burset
"'Please' is for commissary hoes and Oliver Twist."
— Sophia Burset
"If I would've seen him, I don't know, may have felt like closure. But we don't get a lot of that in this life now, do we."
— Sophia Burset


Season 1

Promotional Pictures

Season 2

Promotional Pictures


Sophia1 Sophia3 Sophia4 Sophia5
Sophia6 Sophia7
Sophia8 Sophia9


  • Sophia's character is based on a real transgender inmate in Piper Kerman's book named Vanessa, however Kerman changed her name to Vanessa to protect her identity.
  • Pre-transition Sophia (Marcus) was played by Cox's twin brother M. Lamar


Inmate Navigation
Suburbs Piper Chapman  •  Alex Vause  •  Galina Reznikov  •  Lorna Morello  •  Nicky Nichols  •  Tiffany Doggett  •  Mei Chang  •  Brook Soso  •  Angie Rice  •  Norma Romano  •  Carrie Black  •  Gina Murphy  • Anita DeMarco  •  Jane Ingalls  •  Maureen Kukudio  •  Leanne Taylor  •  Judy King  •  Erica Jones  •  Frieda Berlin   •  Helen Van Maele  •  Kasey Sankey  •  Stephanie Hapakuka  •  Alana Dwight  •  Jennifer Digori  •  Brandy Epps  •  Loretta Fisher  •  Rhea Boyle  •  Shelly Ginsberg
Ghetto Suzanne Warren  •  Tasha Jefferson  •  Sophia Burset  •  Cindy Hayes  •  Janae Watson  •  Alison Abdullah  •  Irma Lerman  •  Reema Pell
Spanish Harlem Dayanara Diaz  •  Maria Ruiz  •  Blanca Flores  •  Marisol Gonzales  •  Gloria Mendoza  •  Carmen Aziza  •  Gerrman  •  Ramona Contrares  •  Cabrera  •  Michelle Carreras  •  Maritza Ramos

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